We’ve all heard the dangers of not sleeping enough as adults. It’s a smart move to sleep more every night. Does the same apply for newborns and younger children? You bet it does. I’d argue that sleep might be even more important for children than it is for adults. Why? Let’s find out:
What happens when a child sleeps?
Young children are in the prime stage of their development — everything they see and hear forms their view of the world. They’re especially good at creating explicit knowledge from implicit things they see. What does that mean? Well, if they see you as a parent donate to someone on the street – even though money is tight at the moment – the child learns that giving is essential.
So children take up information all day. During sleep, their brains take all this information and form concrete knowledge from it. It means that sleep for newborns and young children is crucial for the development of:
- Their vision and auditory skills
- Physical and motor skills
- Social bonds
- Emotional stability
When the child sleeps, new connections are formed. It’s estimated that by the time a child is three years old, the brain has built 1,000 trillion connections. It is twice as much as adults. When children turn around ten years old, the brain starts to remove unnecessary connections. It is to strengthen the remaining neural connections.
Lack of (quality) sleep can slow down development
One study found that the most fundamental requirements for healthy growing up for kids is:
- Loving support and protection by parents/caretakers
- Adequate nutrition
- Adequate sleep
Now, if you’re reading GKFoodDiary, I’m willing to put my money on the fact that your child is the most important person in your life. So that fulfills criteria #1. Also, if you have access to the internet, your family is most likely not starving. Which is #2? Now, the last thing on the list is enough sleep.
What is considered enough sleep?
Sleep Foundation says the recommended amount of sleep for children is:
- Newborns (0 to 3 months) need 14 to 17 hours
- Infants (4 to 11 months) need 12 to 15 hours
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years) need 11 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) need 10 to 13 hours
- School-aged children (6 to 13 years) require 9 to 11 hours
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years) need 8 to 10 hours
- Young adults (18 to 25 years) need 7 to 9 hours
As you can see, the younger the child, the more sleep it needs. That’s because he or she is learning more. When your child doesn’t get the required amount of sleep, it can slow down development of the brain, as the child doesn’t have enough time to solidify the information that he’s taking in during the day.
Other signs of sleep deprivation in babies and young children are:
- Lack of interest in people and the environment
- A tendency to look away from stimulating things
- Hand-to-face gestures: Pulling ears, rubbing eyes
- Fluttering eyelids
What can you do to make your child sleep better?
Just like adults, some kids are ‘better’ sleepers than others. However, there are always things that you can do as a parent to ensure your child gets plenty of opportunity for quality sleep. You can create a healthy sleep routine so that your child’s brain gets used to the routine and falls asleep quickly.
Also, one of the key things to make sure your baby gets good sleep is to remove all the obstacles that are preventing him from that. For example, if the baby is hungry or thirsty, then he won’t sleep well. Here are 12 reasons why your baby might be waking up throughout the night (and solutions for that).
Do you have a specific sleep tip that helps your child sleep better? Share it in the comments so we can all learn from it!
Jamy Russell, who started Sleep Investor to teach people simple, yet effective ways to improve sleep. Falling asleep doesn’t have to be as difficult as many people make it out to be, and often there are many easy wins that people overlook in their quest for better sleep.